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Coalition Statement on EU's Latest Pronouncement on Hormones (May 14, 2002)

Statement by American Farm Bureau Federation,Animal Health Institute, American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

EU's Latest Pronouncement on Hormones "Same Old, Same Old"

In an April 23 press release, the European Union announced that its Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health (SCVPH) had issued its third opinion concerning the potential risks to human health from hormone residues in bovine meat and meat products.  According to the release, "the SCVPH found no reason to change its previous opinions issued of 1999 and 2000."  The SCVPH found in 1999 that the use of hormones as growth promoters for cattle poses a potential health risk to consumers.  Despite no supporting scientific evidence, the SCVPH continues to defend its original finding, which drew strong criticism from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the United Kingdom's Veterinary Products Committee (UK-VPC) and is inconsistent with determinations made by the Codex Alimentarius and the World Trade Organization.  The EU's latest pronouncement essentially confirms that the 17 studies it launched in 1999, with a firm promise that this effort would produce conclusive scientific evidence to support its position on hormones, came up empty-handed.

As noted in the UK-VPC's critique of the first opinion, the SCVPH's third opinion again selectively reviews the available scientific information.  The third opinion's predominant focus on the genotoxic potential of estradiol, one of the six approved hormones, fails to recognize the fact that the human fetus is exposed to high levels of estradiol during pregnancy would appear to call into question any conclusion that estradiol might be genotoxic in vivo.  The opinion also fails to recognize much of the information that was included in the results of the 17 studies.  For example, the latest opinion noted the results that the illegal use of either multiple implants or misplaced implants can increase the residues of the hormones in meat.  However, the SCVPH dismissed the study of 500 samples of US bovine meat where not one illegal hormone was detected and not one legal hormone was above the established tolerances.  The opinion also ignored another result of the 17 studies:  "...it is estimated that the median dietary intake of 17b-estradiol via a 250 gram steak of 'Hormone Free Cattle' is less than 2.5 nanogram and via 250 gram 'beef' of 'Hormone Treated Cattle' is 5 nanogram.  This has to be compared with the recently found median dietary intake of 17b-estradiol of 6.5 nanogram via a 50 gram hens egg."

The SCVPH's third opinion conflicts with the EC's own Committee on Veterinary Medical Products, which has established maximum residue levels for estradiol and progesterone according to the EC's Regulation N. 2377/90.  The existence of a MRL for estradiol raises serious questions as to whether the EC can legally ban the therapeutic uses of estradiol, as it says it plans to do.

The SCVPH's third opinion fails to provide any new evidence that calls into question the findings and conclusions of other authoritative scientific reviews of the safety of the six approved hormones as growth promoters in beef.  Meat and meat products from cattle treated with the six hormones in question, when used with label and according to good veterinary practice, are safe for consumers.

May 14, 2002